Game On.

slashers 2001

SLASHERS

3 Stars  2001/18/99m

“Are you game?”

A.k.a. $la$her$

Director/Writer: Maurice Devereaux / Cast: Sarah Joslyn Crowder, Tony Curtis Blondell, Kieran Keller, Carolina Pla, Jerry Sprio, Sofia De Medeiros, Neil Napier, Chris Piggins, Claudine Shiraishi.

Body Count: 12


Part of the short lived death-on-reality-TV fad, Slashers appeared around the same time as KolobosMy Little EyeVoyeur.com, and everyone’s favourite, Halloween: Resurrection. I remember not being too psyched based on the video box and premise, but this turned out to be a fun little cheapie (with a budget of around $165,000), which passed the reigns of moral responsibility to the Japanese, known for putting contestants through hell on various game shows.

Six American contestants are invited on to the country’s most popular export, where the aim of the game is to stay alive for 90 minutes in a maze of various sets, while three professional maniacs hunt you down. Survive, and they bag the $12 million prize. Simples.

Despite the low-end production values, Slashers is cleverly engineered to look as it it’s one long continuous take once the poor schmucks have entered the maze. They bicker amongst themselves until numbers fall following encounters with any of the trio of loons: Chainsaw Charlie, Dr Ripper, and newcomer Preacherman (who actually flops big time). The American contestants fight back with more force than the usual homeland contestants and secure $2 million bonuses for each slasher permanently defeated, but political martyr Megan doesn’t want to resort to violence to escape.

Some shonky FX work here and there is kinda endearing and with a big budget, this probably could’ve been something of a hit at the height of the reality TV cycle.

Blurb-of-interest: Neil Napier was in Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain.

See No Evil

eyes of crystal 2004 occhi di cristallo

EYES OF CRYSTAL

3.5 Stars  2004/18/108m

A.k.a. Occhi di Cristallo

Director/Writer: Eros Puglielli / Writers: Luca Di Fulvio, Gabriella Blasi, Franco Ferrini / Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Lucia Jimenez, Jose Angel Egido, Simon Andreu, Carmelo Gomez, Ernestina Chavdorova Shinova, Eusebio Poncela, Branimir Petev Milandinov.

Body Count: 8


A late-to-the-party giallo which features a mystery taxidermist hacking up people in an effort to make a human doll, a la Pieces, but with about a million times as much class.

Homicide detectives Amaldi and Frese, who are undisciplined and violent and weathered respectively, find themselves in the centre of a whirlppol of seemingly unrelated events after the triple shooting of a pair of young lovers and a peeping Tom in a field. But what has it got to do with student Giudetta’s apparent obsessed stalker, and their ex-cop friend Ajaccio, who is in hospital suffering flashbacks to a fatal fire at the orphanage he grew up in?

All the staples of giallo are present and accounted for: Opera, sex, eyeballs, and a lot of blood. The latter is subdued enough to avoid looking excessive and stupid, and Puglielli keeps his film engaging considering the almost two-hour run time and non-stratospheric body count, never shying away from visual flourishes and striking shots littered throughout.

As always, all of the random threads eventually come together, while the killer’s motive is cloudy and bizarre, the film is slick and successful in its attempts to resurrect the ways of olde.

Blurb-of-interest: Eusebio Poncela was in Black Serenade.

 

Hear No Evil

hush 2016

HUSH

4 Stars  2016/82m

“Silence can be killer.”

Director/Writer: Mike Flanagan / Writer: Katie Siegel / Cast: Katie Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco, Samantha Sloyan.

Body Count: 3


The overriding aspect of the best slasher films that has always won me over is when a final girl, on her last legs, weary from battle, finally summons enough energy to rise up against her tormentor, turning the tables on him and surviving. I mean, it’s just awesome, especially when the killer has been a sadistic bully (I mean, really, which killer isn’t?), stretching out his reign of terror in favour of the quick stab and move on.

Mike Flanagan is having his moment, and reportedly came up with this idea with star (and future wife) Siegel on one of their early dates. Sandwiched between the over rated Oculus, and the better-than-expected Ouija: Origin of EvilHush was picked up for Netflix exclusivity and (to date) has sat there ever since, yet to be released on DVD, which is either genius or madness, given it’s higher-than-average IMDb rating.

A kind of meta-slasher opus, deaf mute writer Maddie lives alone (‘cept a cat named Bitch) in a wooded area where she’s struggling to finish her second book, paralysed between seven possible endings. When her neighbour Sarah hammers frantically on her window, Maddie neither sees nor hears her, and she is knifed to death by a masked and slingshot-wielding loon, who notices Maddie’s condition and decides to make her his next target.

hush 2016

While Maddie procrastinates, toying with FaceTiming her ex, taking a call from her sister, the killer has broken in and taken her phone, which he then photographs her with and sends the pictures to her, each time coming closer. Once aware of his presence, she tries to persuade him to go, by writing a message that she hasn’t seen his face so won’t tell, to which he removes his mask and tells her she’s next.

Parts of Hush lose the sound to force the viewer into Maddie’s shoes, as she relies on her other senses to try various escape plans. I wondered if the film would perhaps me more effective (but maybe less commercially viable) if it featured no sound whatsoever, locking the viewer into the nightmare of not knowing when the killer may be approaching. As it is, we hear some things Maddie doesn’t, notice what she doesn’t in the background, but root harder for her because of her disability.

hush 2016

There are only two murder victims in the film, which has an entire cast of five, but that doesn’t negate its position as a slasher flick, just one that strictly limits itself to the experience of one character, rather than following the killer as he goes – and both kills are quite savage.

Things crank up to Haute Tension levels of shouting at the screen as blood loss from an earlier wound looks like it might end her before the killer does, but she finally levels the field by attacking the killer’s senses (one method I was waiting for her to choose from the start!)

hush 2-16

An exceptional slasher film variant, beautifully made and completely engaging even with lengthy scenes where no words are spoken. While I didn’t enjoy Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House (which featured Siegel) as much as I’d hoped, he’s definitely building a sizeable platform for himself in the genre and elevating his projects from their disposable, often overlooked roots.

Remake Rumble: Don’t Call the Super

Less a Face-off, more a comparative analysis between the original and its – ugh – remake/reimagining/reboot/whatever (…delete as applicable), some I liked, some I loathed and some I somehow preferred to the original!

*

toolbox murders 1978

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS

1.5 Stars  1978/18/91m

“Bit by bit… he carved a nightmare!”

Director: Dennis Donnelly / Writers: Neva Friedman, Robert Easter, Ann Kindberg / Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure, Nicolas Beauvy, Tim Donnelly, Aneta Corsaut.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Come here you dirty fornicator!”


This depressingly bleak pre-Halloween effort follows a ski-masked, humming maniac, who offs several women in a close-knit apartment block before kidnapping a 15-year-old he believes is the reincarnation of his dead daughter. As it predates the flood of low-budget slash flicks by a few years, the narrative seems a bit out of whack seeing it after so many template slashers.

The first thirty minutes or so is entirely comprised of the back-to-back murders of a series of pretty young women, some of whom have absolutely no lines, they’re present simply to look good, disrobe, in one case take a bath in full make-up, masturbate, and then become the resting place for the killer’s drill/hammer/screwdriver. The killer is soon after identified as the owner of the complex (Mitchell), while his kidnapping victim’s older brother tries to solve the mystery with the help of his friend – the killer’s nephew – who gets a clue and quickly becomes as unwound as his uncle, which provides a passable twist before the end title card informs us that the film was based on true events.

toolbox murders 1978

The main problem here is pacing; with nearly all the slaughter out of the way in the first third, the film reverses the tension effect and it wades through a thick swamp of extended tedium to the okay finale, by which point you’re likely to be lapsing into a coma or masturbating in the bath.

Renowned for its UK banning in 1982, like most of the Video Nasty culprits it’s notorious reputation isn’t warranted and the film is much more boring than it is gory.

*

TOOLBOX MURDERStoolbox murders 2003

3.5 Stars  2003/15/91m

“If you lived here, you’d be dead by now.”

Director: Tobe Hooper / Writers: Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch / Cast: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam, Juliet Landau, Rance Howard, Adam Gierasch, Greg Travis, Marco Rodriguez, Sara Downing, Chris Doyle.

Body Count: 8


One in a million this: A remake that far outdoes the original material. In a twist of irony, the same year that his Texas Chain Saw Massacre genre staple is remade big budget stylee by Hollywood, Tobe Hooper chooses to drag drab 70s sleazefest The Toolbox Murders into the millennium, albeit on a much less grand scale than the ‘re-imagining’ of his most famous film.

This remake is pretty much trading on its notorious title and wisely steers itself in a different direction from the trashy original. Keeping the setting of an apartment block – this time undergoing a lengthy renovation project – thus providing cheap lodgings for numerous Hollywood hopefuls and youthful victims for a ski-masked killer who leaps out of doorways and from behind objects to bludgeon and drill starlets to death.

New resident Angela Bettis becomes suspicious of the extraneous sounds and missing cohabitants so decides to investigate for herself, uncovering some hidden truths surrounding the history of the structure. She also puts herself in the path of the lunatic killer, eventually facing off with him while would-be rescuers fall by the wayside with various tools sticking out of them.

toolbox murders 2003

Toolbox Murders reasserts Hooper’s talent for cranking up the scares, gratefully negating memories of his feeble efforts in the years since Poltergeist (straight to video fodder Crocodile was also written by Anderson and Gierasch). He delivers several ejector-seat jump moments courtesy of avoiding the usual slasher pitfalls, and opting for catching the viewer in their off-guard moments between tension building. The final product also benefits from a good cast playing a variety of oddball characters from the stock creepy maintenance guy to the failing actors inhabiting several apartments via Juliet Landau’s sweet fitness freak, and Rance Howard as an ageing ex-actor who’s lived in the place since 1947 and might just know a little bit more about what’s going on than he’s letting on.

But its Bettis who turns in the most interesting performance as the not-entirely sympathetic heroine, giving her a dimension not always visible in central characters. All in all an overtly impressive improvement on a deservedly forgotten B-movie. Followed by a sequel in 2013.

Blurbs-of-interest: Cameron Mitchell was also in The DemonSilent Scream, Valley of Death, Trapped Alive and Jack-O; Angela Bettis was also in May and Scar; Juliet Landau was in Hack!; Sara Downing was in Wishcraft; Christopher Doyle was one of the cops in Scream 2; Tobe Hooper directed the first two TCM movies and The Funhouse.

Wish Upon A Bull’s Cock

wishcraft 2001WISHCRAFT

3.5 Stars  2001/18/98m

“Be careful what you wish for.”

Director: Danny Graves / Writer: Larry Katz / Cast: Michael Weston, Alexandra Holden, A.J. Buckley, Huntley Ritter, Austin Pendleton, Michael Aday, Charlie Talbert, Sara Downing, Evan Jones, Sam McMurray, Zelda Rubinstein.

Body Count: 7


The rare feel-good slasher flick. This whimsical little fantasy presents high school geek Brett Bumpers (Weston) with an enchanted bull’s dick that promises to grant the recipient three wishes, courtesy of an anonymous sender.

Naturally, as any straight teenage boy would, Brett wishes for popular cheerleader Samantha to go to an upcoming school dance with him. Bing! It happens. However, in a world of equals and opposites, classmates of his begin falling victim to a cloaked, skull-masked psycho. Jerk jocks and babes with ‘tude are showing up decapitated, bowled-to-death, and hanged while Meat Loaf’s homicide detective – yes, really – tries to work out who’s doing it.

wishcraft 2001 michael weston

Brett, meanwhile, ups the ante and wishes Samantha to fall in love with him. Bing! It happens. Although this time, it angers her quarterback boyfriend Cody, and drives a wedge between Brett and his best bud Howie, who informs him that the love isn’t real if Samantha is just under a mystical spell. As Brett tries to ignore all the “she’s with him!?” stares in school, the killings continue.

Eventually, Brett decides to do the right thing and undo his previous wish, but is thwarted when Cody and pals turn up to beat the shit out of him, instead encountering the killer, who has come to finish up and reveal their identity to Brett – and also scold him for wasting his wishes the way he has – in a fun exposition scene. Although by this point their identity is kinda obvious.

wishcraft 2001

Wishcraft is something of an anomaly in the world of teen horror, with a slasher plot playing as the backdrop to standard teen comedy/romance, rather than the other way around. There’s a great scene where Howie appropriates the totem and wishes to become a Tommy Lee-level bad-ass, only for it to fail completely.

In spite of this direction, it stands out thanks to nicely realised characters, and a lightheartedness seldom seen in the vicinity of a bodycount. That the nasty bullies are all boys is a welcome change to the occasionally uncomfortable ‘blame girls’ perspective a significant amount of teen slashers choose.

Slasher addicts may feel shortchanged by the rather low-level horror antics, but after several hundred films, this at least has something to remember it by.

wishcraft 2001 alexandra holden michael weston

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Weston was in Cherry Falls; Meat Loaf (Aday) was later in ropey musical slasher movie Stage Fright; Sara Dorwning was in the Toolbox Murders remake; Zelda Rubinstein was in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

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